Song at Dawn

by Meshullam da Piera

English version by T. Carmi
Original Language Hebrew

When they sang together,
when my morning stars sang
     as the night was ending
     and light came up from all sides;
when the night was ending,
     the darkness expelled,
     and my sun rose in the East;
when my thoughts shook off slumber
     and my limbs woke from their sleep of night --
then I sought to greet the dawn with music
     and to worship the morning with song.
In my hands I held the lyre and the pipe,
     and my left hand moved skillfully over the strings.
I tied the timbrel and the flute to my side
     and adjusted their loops,
     now tightening, now loosening them.
Then I began to sing and improvise,
     to see if my instruments would answer my words,
     to see if they would comfort me in my wandering,
     in this land of exile which is my home.
But though I sang, my flute did not answer,
     and even the birds did not raise their voices in mirth.
O masters of mysteries,
     have you ever known a musical instrument
     that would not strike up when I sing --
     and the birds voiceless among the branches, the swallows songless in my house?
Yet I wish them well,
     for with their silence
     they counsel me to hide my works,
     to hide my words from men,
     to conceal my secrets from all men
     with even greater care.

-- from The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, Edited by T. Carmi

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Recommended Books: Meshullam da Piera

The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492





Song at Dawn